Nellie Bly Meets Julia Grant

This brief article appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book in December 1888 in preparation for a full-length article by Nellie Bly in the January issue.

The following extract from an interview with Mrs. Gen. Grant by Nellie Bly , printed in the N.Y. WORLD, October 28th, will show our subscribers who Nellie Bly is:

“I was somewhat nervous about my visit to Mrs. Grant. I only knew of her as the wife of the famous general; the successful hostess for eight years in the White House; the woman who had, in making a tour of the world, been received as a queen in every civilized land.

Would anyone wonder, then, at my apprehension, when women of so much meaner light so often try to parry all attempts at approach? But I was wrong.”

“My son tells me,” Mrs. Grant said, with a pleasant laugh, after greetings had been exchanged and she had drawn me by the hand to a chair and seated herself on a lounge, most cordially near, “that Nellie Bly is a little scamp”—

“Oh, no, no,” I broke in, but holding her finger up playfully, she continued:

“That, not being content with exposing the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum—yes, and benefiting it wondrously—and exposing Phelps, the great Albany lobbyist, she needs must go to Central Park and allow herself to be ‘mashed,’ and then tell all about it in THE WORLD , so that now none of the men dare wink at a girl while out driving, lest she be Nellie Bly .”

“Why, that’s a shame,” I replied, and we both laughed, I fear not altogether in pity of the men.

Nellie Bly’ s first article will appear in the January issue of GODEY’S. Be sure your subscription is sent in on time, to get this issue.

Source
“Who is Nellie Bly?” Godey’s Lady’s Book, December, 1888
Transcription: Accessible Archives

Photo source: Julia Grant, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
Photo source: Nellie Bly, H. J. Myers, photographer (Library of Congress)

Rita Levi-Montalcini – Nobel Prize Winning Neurobiologist

Rita Levi-Montalcini, 2009, Photo: Presidenza della Repubblica (source)

Rita Levi-Montalcini in 2009, Photo credit: Presidenza della Repubblica (source)

During World War II, Rita Levi-Montalcini, as a Jewish woman, was forced to leave her research position at the University of Turin. However, she didn’t leave her research behind. Using homemade instruments, a basic microscope, an incubator built by her brother, and chicken eggs, she spent the war years observing the growth of nerve cells. This clandestine work laid the foundation for her discovery of Nerve Growth Factor which eventually led to receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986.

Rita Levi was born April 22, 1909 into a wealthy Jewish family in Turin, Italy. She and her twin, Paola, were the youngest of the four children of Adam Levi and Adele Montalcini Levi. The Levi family was well established in Turin, since the Roman empire, and with so many relatives of the same name, Rita, who never married, eventually added her mother’s maiden name to distinguish herself professionally.

Adam Levi was an electrical engineer and an authoritarian with a quick temper. He had definite ideas of what was appropriate for girls, which was training to be good wives and mothers, so after Rita and Paola completed the 4th grade, they were sent to finishing school. Two of Adam’s aunts had doctorate degrees, one in literature and the other in mathematics. They also had unhappy marriages, which Adam attributed to their advanced education.

Rita’s mother Adele, an accomplished artist, was reserved and submissive. Perhaps for this reason, Rita wasn’t interested in marriage. Or perhaps it was because she considered her classes at finishing school “mindless”. Regardless, she had no interest in “children or babies” and “never remotely accepted [her] role as wife or mother.” Ever since her beloved nurse, Giovanna, died of stomach cancer, she had wanted to be a doctor, but saw no hope of attending medical school.

Museum of Human Anatomy, University of Turin (source)

Museum of Human Anatomy, University of Turin (source)

Finally at the age of 20, Rita had the courage to tell her father about her desire to be a physician. Although he disagreed, with her mother’s support she convinced him to hire tutors to help her prepare for the entrance exams to the university. Studying with her cousin Eugenia, they hired two tutors, one for mathematics and science, another for Latin and Greek. They studied subjects such as history and literature alone. After eight months of study, both Rita and Eugenia passed their exams and in 1930 Rita entered the University of Turin as a medical student.

At the university, Rita studied under another quick-tempered man, Giuseppe Levi, a leading histologist. Along with Rita, two other students of Levi went on to receive Nobel Prizes, Salvador Luria and Renato Dulbecco. Rita finished her degrees in 1936 and began to specialize in neurology, now working as Levi’s assistant, but in 1938 that changed when a new law forced Jews out of the university and professional jobs. Rather than emigrate from Italy, Rita’s family chose to remain.

Viktor Hamburger c. 1933 (source)

Viktor Hamburger c. 1933 (source)

For a time, Rita practiced medicine among the poor, but she couldn’t write prescriptions. Then one day she read a journal article written by Victor Hamburger, one of the founders of developmental neurobiology, who happened to do research using chick embryos. This gave Rita the idea to start her own home laboratory. When Giuseppe Levi joined Rita in her work, her family’s home also became a meeting place for his other students.

In spite of her brother Gino’s name being on a most-wanted list for resistance activities, she was able to keep her activities hidden. But, when bombing began in Turin in 1941, the Levi family moved to the country and Rita had to rebuild her lab there. Supplies were more difficult to get, so she often rode her bicycle through the countryside asking farmers for eggs for “her babies.” When the country was invaded in 1943, the family moved again and using forged documents, found a place to hide in Florence, where they remained until Italy was liberated in August 1944.

Rita was unable to publish her research in Italy during the war because her name was Jewish, so she published in Belgian and Swiss journals. This time it was Rita who came to the attention of Victor Hamburger. In 1947, Hamburger was the director of the zoology department at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and after reading about her experiments asked Rita to visit for a semester. Some of her results contradicted his, and he wanted to know which was accurate. When she was able to duplicate her results in the laboratory, Hamburger offered her a research position. Rita accepted and remained there for almost three decades.

Levi-Montalcini and Hamburger were a good match. He recognized that she brought expertise in neurology that he didn’t have, and he supplied experimental embryology expertise. By 1953, Rita’s research had convinced her of the existence of some substance which caused nerve fibers to grow and that without it they would die. She now needed the help of a biochemist, so she began working with Stanley Cohen, a post-doctoral fellow at Washington University.

Stanley Cohen (source)

Stanley Cohen (source)

Once again, Rita had a good working partner in both style and substance. Together she and Cohen isolated Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) first by using mouse tumors, then snake venom, and finally the salivary glands of male mice. They were successful, but ultimately, Hamburger couldn’t justify keeping a full-time biochemist on staff in a zoology department, so in 1959 Cohen moved on to Vanderbilt University, where he was able to isolate Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF). Levi-Montalcini and Cohen shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology for their results, discovering NGF and EGF, respectively.

Without Cohen, Rita felt at loose ends. She was also homesick, especially for Paola. In 1961, she received a National Science Foundation grant which allowed her to open the Research Center of Neurobiology in Rome. From 1961 to 1969, she alternated spending six months in Rome with six months in St. Louis. In 1969, with the help of a friend, she was able to open the Laboratory of Cellular Biology which allowed her to return to Italy full time.

Although Rita Levi-Montalcini officially retired from the Laboratory of Cellular Biology in 1979, she continued to guest lecture. She also stayed active in science and politics. In 2001 she was appointed  Senator for Life by the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and in 2002, she founded the European Brain Research Institute. After a long and very full life, Rita Levi-Montalcini died on December 30, 2012 at the age of 103.

Resources
Nobel Prize Women in Science by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
Rita Levi-Montalcini“, Jewish Women’s Archive
Paola Levi-Montalcini“, Jewish Women’s Archive
Rita Levi-Montalcini“, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 23, 2015

Read about other Famous Women Mathematicians and Scientists.

The Extraordinary Life of Alexandra David-Néel

Alexandra David-Néel c. 1933 in Tibet (source)

Alexandra David-Néel c. 1933 in Tibet (source)

Alexandra David-Néel is one of the most extraordinary women I have ever read about. She was a Buddhist scholar and teacher, a prolific writer, and from an early age an inveterate, often solitary, traveler. She became an opera singer to support herself and traveled over much of China and Tibet disguised as a beggar. However, she is probably most well-known as the first western woman to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa.

Alexandra David-Néel was born on October 24, 1868, to a French father, Louis Pierre David, and a Belgian mother, Alexandrine Borghmans David. Louis David was a school teacher turned revolutionary journalist who fled France after Louis Napoleon’s coup d’etat in 1851. He settled in Louvain, Belgium where he met Alexandrine. She was 20 years his junior and they were not well-matched in intellect or interests.

Although, Alexandra grew up in Belgium, her father received permission to travel to Paris shortly before her birth so that she could be born a French citizen. Alexandra’s memories of her childhood sound bleak. She remembered her father as aloof and her mother as being primarily interested in social concerns. She felt neglected and unloved.

As a child, Alexandra had a longing to travel, but not to see sites and people; she was looking for solitude. She found this to an extent in reading, but also ran away on several occasions. The first was when she was five years old and was found in a nearby forest. At fifteen, she ventured farther afield, walking from Ostend where the family was vacationing, into the Netherlands and crossing over to England. Another time, Alexandra traveled by train to Switzerland and hiked over the Saint-Gotthard Pass through the Alps. Both trips were without her parents knowledge and ended when she ran out of money.

Alexandra David-Néel c. 1886 (source)

Alexandra David-Néel c. 1886 (source)

As a young woman, she rejected Catholicism and began to study comparative religions. She attended lectures and discussions at the Theosophical Society in Paris, which is where she probably first encountered Buddhism and became fascinated by Far Eastern cultures. But the place in Paris which made the most dramatic impression on Alexandra was the Musée Guimet, a museum devoted to Asian art. The museum was founded by Émile Étienne Guimet, who was commissioned to study religions of the Far East by the minister of public instruction in France. There in a small reading room, Alexandra found her longed for solitude and as she would say later, her vocation.

In 1890, Alexandra decided to use the money from a small inheritance to travel to India. She traveled by ship to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then by train all over the Indian sub-continent. On her journey she studied the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, Sanskrit under Annie Besant, and yoga with Swami Bhaskarananda of Varanasi. She was gone for almost a year and as before, returned home when she was almost out of money.

Louis David had had a reversal of fortune, and Alexandra needed to find a way to support herself. She had always been talented musically and decided to become an opera singer. Beginning in 1896, she toured with several opera companies, including Opéra Comique and L’Opéra d’Athènes, until she took a position as director with Casino de Tunis in 1902. The next year, she changed directions and became a journalist, writing for both English and French magazines.

It was in Tunis where Alexandra met and lived with Philippe-François Néel, a Frenchman who was working in Tunis as a railroad engineer. A friend remembered their relationship as one of affection and mutual respect, but it was definitely out of the ordinary. On August 3, 1904, Alexandra and Philippe were married at the French consulate in Tunis. Five days later, they returned to France and went in different directions.

Later that year in December, Alexandra’s father died. Her trip home and the cold reception from her mother launched her into a period of deep self-analysis and a realization of what her life would be like if she pursued marriage and motherhood. She came to the conclusion that “freedom for her was the most important thing in life,” and she had to create her own life on her own terms.

Alexandra David-Néel c. 1924 at Lhassa, Tibet (source)

Alexandra David-Néel c. 1924 at Lhasa, Tibet (source)

Alexandra wrote of her struggles to Philippe. “You are the best husband one could dream of, I acknowledge it without hesitation and it is for that reason I am tormented by a situation that is extremely painful for you.” He accepted her position, at least in time, with good grace, and although they never had a conventional marriage, Philippe never asked for a divorce and continued to support her in many ways until his death 40 years later.

Between her father’s death and 1911, Alexandra began building her life on her terms. She studied, attended lectures, wrote articles, and took short trips, including the occasional visit to see Philippe. She knew she wanted to go back to India and finally felt ready in August of 1911. In her previous travels, especially to Indochina with the opera company, she felt that she belonged in the east.

Once in India, she had a wide range of experiences, from garden parties and lunch with the wives of the Governor of Madras and the British Viceroy, to visiting ashrams and staying with friends in the “native quarter.” She collected information from every source for future articles. In 1912, she decided that she wanted to interview the 13th Dalai Lama. She was the first western woman granted an audience with him and he was so impressed with her knowledge of Buddhist doctrine that he encouraged her to learn the Tibetan language.

In 1910, the Dalai Lama had been granted refuge in Darjeeling in the province of Sikkim, in the Himalayan foothills. While there Alexandra also met Sidkeong Tulka, the Crown Prince of Sikkim and at his invitation traveled to Gangtok, the capital, to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism. She eventually took a small apartment in the monastery of Podang outside Gangtok, where she hired a tutor to help her with the language. She took frequent trips on foot and horseback to remote monasteries, traveling with porters for her camping gear and at first Darwasandup, her interpreter, and later Yongden, a boy who would be her traveling companion for the rest of his life.

From 1914 to 1916, Alexandra spent a winter secluded in a cave in the Himalayas and twice crossed the border illegally into Tibet. The first time to visit the Chorten Nyima monastery and the second to visit Tashilhunpo. On her return from the second visit, she was deported from India because of these crossings. By this time, she was determined to visit Lhasa, and now she knew she would have to enter through China.

Aphur Yongden c. 1933 (source)

Aphur Yongden c. 1933 (source)

Alexandra and Yongden left India and traveled through Burma, Japan, and Korea, usually staying at Buddhist monasteries, and arrived in Peking on October 31, 1917. They began their time in China by staying roughly three years at the Kumbum monastery near Lake Koko Nor. It was an unusual privilege for a woman, extended to her because of her age and her association with the Dalai Lama, but it couldn’t last indefinitely. (Yongden was a lama and could have stayed if he chose.)

When they left the monastery, they traveled to various places, even up to the Gobi desert on two occasions. Much of the area, at the time, had not been accurately mapped and knowing their ultimate destination was Lhasa, they took circuitous routes to avoid suspicion. It was dangerous. There were bandits in addition to the usual dangers women face. Alexandra carried a pistol, which she never had to use, although she did fend off an attacker with a small whip on one occasion.

Finally, they reached a small mission, north of Lichiang along the Mekong River from which they intended to approach Tibet. Saying that she was going on a short trip to collect botanicals, she dismissed her porters and took off alone with Yongden. Once away from the others, Alexandra assumed her disguise as a peasant woman. She darkened her hair and extended it with braids of yak hair, darkened her face, and put on a rough robe made of wool. They looked like a peasant woman traveling with her son, a lama journeying to Lhasa.

In the Kha Karpo mountains at Dokar Pass, Alexandra and Yongden crossed the border into Tibet. They still had hundreds of miles to go over uncharted territory. Most of the rivers and mountains they crossed didn’t appear on any map that they knew of, and in many cases had probably never been seen by westerners. The terrain was rough; the Dokar Pass itself is at an elevation over 14,000 feet and the weather at times was brutal. In order to avoid attracting attention, Alexandra only used the white tent she carried in her pack when it could blend in with the snow and help provide camouflage.

The most anticipated and tense moment came at the toll bridge at Giamdo Dzong. From here they would take the China Road to Lhasa, but first they would need a pass. Alexandra believed that the best way to learn about a people and their culture was to live among them. This trip had proven that idea true. Because Yongden was a lama, they were welcomed into the homes of many peasants and she was accepted as his mother. At the toll bridge, the same was true. Yongden went into the checkpoint to request passes, she sat on the doorstep and chanted. No one appeared to give her a second thought.

The same held true when they finally arrived at Lhasa. They arrived in February just in time for the month long celebration of the New Year. Instead of having the way cleared for her by servants as in the past, this time Alexandra was simply one of the thousands of celebrating pilgrims, and she loved it. She watched processions and tested her disguise by going to tea shops, bazaars, and having conversations with people at the inn where she stayed. Finally it was time to try for her ultimate goal, visiting the Potala Palace, the home of the Dalai Lama.

Yongden approached two Tibetan villagers and offered to show them the Potala. They gladly accepted the opportunity to have a lama accompany them, and Alexandra humbly walked behind the three men. As at the checkpoint, no one paid her any attention and she was able to feast her eyes on the Palace and the view of Lhasa from the roof. She was satisfied.

Potala Palace at Lhasa (source)

Potala Palace at Lhasa (source)

They had been in Lhasa for two months and Alexandra chose to return home via India. She wanted to make the point that the British government couldn’t prevent her from going to Lhasa. She took the precaution of stopping at Gyantze and having David Macdonald, the British Trade Agent, verify her journey. She had been gone for almost fourteen years.

Alexandra and Yongden returned to Tibet via the Soviet Union in 1937, where they circumambulated the holy mountain Amnye Machen and stayed at Tachienlu (now Kangding), so that Alexandra could read and translate more sacred literature. They returned from their final journey in 1946 and settled in Digne-les-Bains, in southeastern France. There, Yongden died in 1955 at the age of 56. Alexandra continued to study and write until close to her death on September 8, 1969, just one month before her 101st birthday. At her request, Yongden’s ashes were mixed with hers and they were scattered in the Ganges River at Varanasi.

Alexandra wrote over 30 books and numerous articles, including My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City (1927) and Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929), her most famous work.

Lhasa in 1938, Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 135-KA-07-089 / CC-BY-SA (source)

Lhasa in 1938, Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 135-KA-07-089 / CC-BY-SA (source)

Resources
A Mystic in Tibet – Alexandra David-Néel
On Top of the World: Five Women Explorers in Tibet by Luree Miller

 

Sophia Hayden: Architect of the Women’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

Women’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893 (cropped, source for original)

Women’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893 (cropped, source for original)

Sophia Hayden designed the Women’s Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893. It was beautiful, admired, and won an award, and even though she had an architecture degree from MIT, Sophia didn’t pursue her career as an architect after the Fair.

Sophia Gregoria Hayden was born on October 17, 1868, in Santiago, Chile, to Elezena Fernandez, from Peru, and George Henry Hayden, an American dentist from New England. When she was six, Sophie was sent to Boston to live with her paternal grandparents. She attended the Hillside school in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood and West Roxbury High School, where she became interested in architecture.

Sophia Hayden c. 1892 (source)

Sophia Hayden c. 1892 (source)

In 1886, Sophia became the first woman admitted to the architecture program at MIT and in 1890, graduated with honors. The program was developed by Eugène Létang, using principles from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and included planning of buildings and production of watercolor renderings, but also basic structural engineering. Unable to find a job in her chosen field, she began teaching mechanical drawing at a Boston high school.

In 1891, Sophia entered a competition to design the women’s building for the World’s Fair and won. The competition, advertised as “An Unusual Opportunity for Women Architects”, was sponsored by the Board of Lady Managers for the fair. She was paid $1000 for her design even though men were receiving $10,000 for similar work.

Daniel Burnham c. 1890 (source)

Daniel Burnham c. 1890 (source)

Daniel Burnham, the architect responsible for the overall design and construction of the fair, was pleased with her work and Sophia traveled to Chicago to complete the detailed scale drawings. She was paid $1500 for the work (and as you might expect men doing the same work were paid three to ten times more.) Although Burnham handled the actual construction, Sophia was involved in every aspect of the design, both interior and exterior. It was exacting work, but the Women’s Building was the first to begin construction and first to be completed.

The atmosphere was tense. Prior to the competition, the Board of Lady Managers had prevented the construction of a design by a rival organization, so there was pressure to justify this decision. Generally of good temper, Sophia was put to the test. Although she usually was able to implement her plans, she received a lot of pressure to incorporate elements that she deemed inappropriate for the design. The President of the Board of Lady Managers, Bertha Honoré Palmer, was a well-known socialite and philanthropist.  In her capacity as President, she solicited donations from wealthy women to adorn the exterior and the interior of the Women’s Building. Sophia felt that many of these items would be inconsistent with her vision for the building and rejected them. Bertha’s decision to accept them held sway. Regardless of Sophia’s expert design, Mrs. Potter Palmer had more influence than a 23 year old woman from the east.

Bertha Honoré Palmer (source)

Bertha Honoré Palmer (source)

The pressure took its toll and Sophia didn’t supervise the final details. It was rumored that she had a “nervous collapse.” In The Devil in the White City, Larson says that Sophia was taken from the park to a sanitarium by an ambulance for a period of rest. According to Beasley, Palmer fired Sophia and replaced her with Candace Wheeler for the final interior design details. Regardless, she did return for the dedication of the building in October 1892, but did not return to the fair afterwards.

Although Sophia received an award for the “delicacy of style, artistic taste, and geniality and elegance of the interior hall”, she was also criticized for the femininity of her design at the same time her technical skills were acknowledged. Architect Henry Van Brunt said of the building that its “graceful timidity or gentleness, combined however with evident technical knowledge, at once differentiate[s] it from its colossal neighbors, and reveal[s] the sex of its author.”

The American Architect and Building News said that her “nervous collapse” gave “a much more telling argument against the wisdom of women entering this especial profession than anything else could.” Others thought her “frustration” was “evidence” of women’s “unfitness for supervising construction.”  Whether or not her experience at the fair was the reason, Sophia didn’t work as an architect again.

In 1900, Sophia married William Blackstone Bennett, an artist and interior designer with one daughter from a previous marriage. They lived a quiet life in Winthrop, Massachusetts. Widowed in 1913, Sophia remained in Winthrop and census records list her occupation as artist. In 1953, she died of pneumonia at the Winthrop Convalescent Home.

In 1894, Sophia designed a memorial for women’s clubs in the United States, but it was never built. And like most of the other buildings of the fair, the women’s building was a temporary structure and was torn down. So, there is no standing legacy to her architectural talent.

Resources
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The First American Women Architects by Sarah Allaback
Notable American women, The Modern Period: A Biographical Dictionary, eds. Sicherman, Green, et al.
Women in Design: Sophia Hayden (1868 – 1953)” by Soodie Beasley

Poetry, History, and Dime Novels: The Literary Works of the Fuller Sisters

Metta Victoria Fuller (source)

Metta Victoria Fuller (source)

Sisters Frances Auretta and Metta Victoria Fuller both made their mark on the literary world of the 19th century. Frances became well-known for writing history, particularly of the Northwest, while Metta wrote primarily popular fiction, including the newly popular Dime Novels. Although they made their mark writing in different genres, they began their careers in much the same way, writing for local publications in Ohio and for the Home Journal (now Town and Country), founded by Nathaniel Parker Willis and George Morris. By 1848, they had moved to New York City together where they met with immediate success.

“One in spirit and equal in genius, these most interesting and brilliant ladies – both still in earliest youth – are undoubtedly destined to occupy a very distinguished and permanent place among the native authors of this land.” ~ N. P. Willis

Frances was born in Rome, New York, on May 23, 1826, the oldest of five daughters of Adonijah and Lucy Fuller. The family moved several times, including to Erie, Pennsylvania, where Metta, the third daughter, was born on March 2, 1831. They finally settled in Wooster, Ohio in 1839, where the girls were able to attend a female seminary. There they both discovered a love of literature and a talent for writing. By the time they moved to New York City in 1848, they were both published and welcomed into literary circles.

Around the same time the sisters moved to New York, Frances published her first novel, Anizetta of Guajira: or The Creole of Cuba. In 1851, she published jointly with Metta a book of poetry, Poems of Sentiment and Imagination. Later in life, Frances referred to it as “mistaken kindness which induced  her friends to advise the publication of these youthful productions.” The time Frances spent in New York was shortened, however, because their father died in 1850 and she needed to return to Ohio to help the family,

Metta’s first novel, The Last Days of Tul, a story about Mayan civilization, had been published in 1847, when she was only fifteen. When Frances returned home, she decided to remain in New York and over the next couple of years her success surpassed that of her sister with the publication of several novels including, The Senator’s Son, or, The Maine Law; a Last Refuge (1853) a temperance novel, and Mormon Wives (1856) a fictional attack on polygamy. In 1856, she married Orville James Victor and began work with him as an editor of Cosmopolitan Art Journal. She also served as the editor at Home magazine, a Beadle & Company monthly.  In 1860, she took over editing the art journal so that Orville. would be free to develop a new series of books for Beadle in the new  “Dime novel” genre.

Together Metta and Orville had nine children, but it didn’t keep her from writing. In 1860 alone, she wrote three “dime novels” and she went on to publish over 100 under the pseudonym Seeley Regester. Her books were very popular. Two of her best-known works are Maum Guinea and Her Plantation “Children” (1862) and The Dead Letter (1866). She also wrote for periodicals of the time including Godey’s Lady’s Book. Over the decades she was able to adjust her style of writing to suit the times, from reform literature to satire and whimsey. By 1870, she supposedly received $25,000 for a group of stories.

Frances Fuller Victor (source)

Frances Fuller Victor (source)

After Frances left New York, the family moved to St. Clair, Michigan where she met Jackson Barritt from Pontiac. They were married on June 16, 1853, and took up homesteading near Omaha, Nebraska. The marriage didn’t survive and Frances decided to rejoin Metta in New York. When she arrived Orville had begun to edit Beadle’s dime novels and Frances fit right it. In 1862, she wrote two novels for the series that portrayed Nebraska farm life, East and West; or, The Beauty of Willard’s Mill (1862) and The Land Claim: A Tale of the Upper Missouri (1862). She also obtained a divorce in March of 1862 and in May married Orville’s brother Henry Clay Victor.

Henry was a naval officer and in 1863 was reassigned to San Francisco, California. There Frances became a regular contributor to the San Francisco Bulletin and the Golden Era, a literary weekly. One of her contributions was a series of society articles under the pseudonym Florence Fane which were evidently quite humorous.

In 1865, after Henry resigned from the navy, the couple moved to Oregon, where Frances discovered her literary strength in writing history. In addition to submitting stories and poems to western periodicals, she wrote The River of the West: The Adventures of Joe Meek (1870) a biography, and a travel book entitled All Over Oregon and Washington (1872). In doing her research, Frances conducted interviews with many of the pioneers who were still living as well as going through family papers and archives amassing a huge amount of material.

Henry was lost at sea in 1875 and Frances had to make her living through her writing. She collected many of her stories and poems written for periodicals and published them under the name The New Penelope (1877) through the Bancroft Publishing House. She had known Hubert Howe Bancroft for many years and he was aware of her writing and desire to publish a history of Oregon. He planned to publish a series of books on the History of the Pacific States and asked her to come work for him. In need of money, Frances took his offer and moved back to San Francisco.

Frances remained with Bancroft until 1790 through the publication of the twenty-eighth volume of a planned thirty-nine. Although Bancroft claimed authorship of the entire series, it has been established that Frances was the author of both volumes on Oregon; the volume on Washington, Idaho, and Montana; the volume on Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming; and much of the material in the volumes on California, the Northwest Coast, and British Columbia.

In 1890, Frances returned to Oregon to live the remainder of her life. Metta had died of cancer on June 26, 1885, and Frances had no children, so she continued her literary efforts in the place she had come to love. She revised some of her earlier work and was commissioned by the state legislature to produce The Early Indian Wars of Oregon, published in 1894. She continued writing for the Oregon Historical Quarterly until her death on November 14, 1902.

The Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, Oregon, 15 Nov 1902, Sat • Page 6

The Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, Oregon, 15 Nov 1902, Sat • Page 6

Resources
“Victor, Frances Auretta Fuller” by Franklin Walker, Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume III, eds. James, Edward T. et al.
“Victor, Metta Victoria Fuller” by William H. Taylor, Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume III, eds. James, Edward T. et al.
Historian of the Northwest. A Woman Who Loved Oregon: Frances Fuller Victor” by William A. Morris, The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society 3.
Victor, Metta Victoria Fuller“, by Orso, Miranda (2002).